Democrat incumbent Fran Hurley is the Sun-Times’ endorsed candidate in the 35th district race for the Illinois House. She faces a challenge from Republican Herbert Hebein in the general election.
The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the nominees for the Illinois House of Representatives a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois and their districts. Frances Hurley submitted the following responses:
Please explain what cause or causes you will make priorities.
Hurley: Since taking office, I have always prioritized constituent services and making myself accessible to voters. I host “coffee and conversation” events monthly at various coffee shops throughout my district to make it easier for constituents to meet me; I utilize a “robo-call” system to reach constituents with recorded messages about upcoming events and state services; I have extended evening office hours each month to give constituents who work during the day a chance to speak with me in person; and I regularly walk the neighborhoods of my district, going door-to-door to gather opinions on state government from my constituents.
The high cost of property taxes is a topic I hear about most often. Although property taxes are set by local government, I believe the state legislature must do more to address this problem. I have voted 17 times for a property tax freeze and 17 times it failed. Increasing state funding of schools is likely the best way to relieve the financial pressure property taxes are placing on local homeowners.
Please list three concerns that are highly specific to your district, such as a project that should be undertaken or a state policy related to some local issue that must be changed.
Hurley: As mentioned above, high property taxes are probably the biggest concern of residents in my district. Also, I have a large contingent of police officers residing in my district. I requested to chair the Police and First Responders Committee so I can address issues that might affect law enforcement and first responders and their families. Currently, I am troubled and heartbroken over suicides by police and fire personnel. My community has suffered from at least five deaths in the past few months. I am holding a police and first responder subject matter hearing in October to see how we can address this epidemic.
Who is Frances Hurley?
She’s running for: Illinois House, 35th District Her political/civic background:
- Former aide to Chicago aldermen Ginger Rugai and Matthew O’Shea
- Member of the Saint Christina Parish
- Mt. Greenwood Civic Association
- Former director of the Saint Christina Manna Program
- Former volunteer for:Christ Hospital’s Ronald McDonald House
- Y-Me softball tournament
- Marist High School
- Mt. Greenwood Party in the Park
- Merrionette Park Youth Softball
- Lives in Mt. Greenwood and has three children.
Her occupation: Full-time Legislator Her education: Graduate of Saint Barnabas Elementary School, Mother McAuley High School, and Saint Xavier University; Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Campaign website: franhurley.com
What are the most important differences between you and your opponent?
Hurley: I know very little about the positions my opponent has taken on the issue. I do not know his motivation to run since I have never known him to be involved in the community. I have an established record of community service that I will present to the voters.
Illinois is now the sixth-most populated state, down from No. 5, after 33,703 people moved out between July 2016 and July 2017. What must the Legislature do to make Illinois a more desirable place to live?
Hurley: First, we must change the dialogue and promote the state. We have wonderful resources including a well trained and highly educated workforce, access to transportation infrastructure, and natural resources like fresh water. To stop population decreases we need to stimulate the state economy with a major capital investment program to repair roads and bridges, and to detangle our railroad system. We also need to invest more in higher education in order to reverse tuition increases and stem the loss of college students to other states.
In 2017, our state’s unfunded pension liability ballooned to more than $130 billion. What’s to be done about that?
Hurley: We must continue to pay off our pension debt. Since I have been in office, the state has made the required pension payment, reversing decades of financial neglect. I have supported several pieces of pension reform legislation in my career, including measures to roll back pension benefits for legislators. Court decisions upholding Illinois’ constitutional prohibition on impairing public pension benefits has forced us to find new solutions that will bring far less financial savings to the state. Among the solutions we should pursue are proposals to offer state employees “buy out” options at the time of retirement, or “cash out” options to current Tier 1 employees in which they would receive upfront payments now in exchange for giving up their compounding 3 percent cost of living raises when retired. Proposals to refinance pension debt at a more favorable rate should also be explored.
From 2000 to 2016, the number of Illinois residents who enrolled as college freshmen outside the state increased by 73% (20,507 to 35,445). Why are so many more Illinois residents going to college elsewhere? What should be done to encourage more of them to go to school here?
Hurley: As mentioned above, the tuition gap between in-state and out-of-state colleges and universities has narrowed considerably, making it more affordable for students to leave the state for higher education. More state funding for state universities, like the recently adopted AIM HIGH grant and the establishment of 4 year MAP awards, will help address this problem. Having an actual budget in place will help, too. I heard from dozens of constituents, as well as university officials, about Illinois students turning away from Illinois schools because of fears about schools closing or academic programs being eliminated during the budget stand-off.
What laws, if any, should the Legislature pass to address the problem of gun violence?
Hurley: I have supported responsible and reasonable gun laws throughout my tenure in Springfield. Unfortunately, many of those efforts were vetoed this year by Governor Rauner. I support the gun dealer licensing act because it will help police and state regulators crackdown on “straw purchasing” or weapons, which is one of the main sources of firearms used in gang-related violence in Chicago. I also believe we must ensure judges and prosecutors are properly enforcing existing gun laws to ensure individuals charged with gun crimes are sent to prison. Recent changes in the law, which I supported, designed to accomplish this might not go far enough. If we continue to see large numbers of gun offenders released on probation, then we might need to limit the amount of discretion judges currently receive in gun-related sentencing guidelines.
On-demand scheduling software now helps large retail companies determine how many staff members they will need on a day-to-day or even hour-to-hour basis. The downside is that employees may not receive their work schedules until the last minute. Oregon and a number of cities have responded by adopting “fair scheduling” laws. Would it be appropriate for the Illinois Legislature to pass a “fair scheduling” law? Please explain. What would such a law look like?
Hurley: HB 5046 is still in negotiations. Business and labor need to work out a viable solution to the issues.
Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.
Hurley: An important lesson we learned from Prohibition is that it is impossible to enforce a law if a majority of the citizens do not believe in it. Based in the results of Cook County’s recent non-binding referendum on marijuana legalization, it appears a majority of my constituents favor some form of legalized, recreational marijuana usage. Additionally, the possibility of raising new revenue and redirecting law enforcement to more pressing matters, like violent crime, are good arguments for legalization. As such, I favor moving forward with legalization. However, this is not something the state should rush into without careful consideration. Many issues remain unaddressed, like the inability to reliably determine impairment of drivers who may be intoxicated due to marijuana use. The 101st General Assembly should spend considerable time and resources debating this issue before we act.
Opioid overdoses and fatalities continue to rise in number. In Illinois in 2017, there were 13,395 opioid overdoses, including 2,110 deaths. What should the Legislature do, if anything, about this?
Hurley: There is a growing consensus among health care policy experts that doctors are over-prescribing opioids. The state legislature can and should address this problem by leveraging our ability to set Medicaid funding policy and limit reimbursement to doctors or medical groups if they do not adopt opioid limiting protocols. I also favor extending medical marijuana usage to cover pain management, as we did earlier this year with the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act.
The Future Energy Jobs Act, passed in 2016, is generating job growth in renewable energy and improving energy efficiency. Do you agree or disagree with the objectives and substance of the Act? What more — or less — should be done?
Hurley: I agree with the substance of the act and voted to support the bill in 2016. Some advocates called for higher standards of wind and solar, but some of those programs are cost prohibitive for the middle class and the poor. However, we should continue to gradually expand the amount of energy generated from renewable sources. Not only is this good for the environment, but it helps keep Illinois at the forefront of creating “green” jobs.
What would you do to ensure the long-term viability of the state’s Medicaid program? What is your view on managed care for Medicaid beneficiaries?
Hurley: I support the expansion of managed care for Medicaid in order to contain costs. However, the state needs to ensure that the various managed care organizations (MCO’s) follow standards for billing procedures so hospitals and other caregivers know what is covered and what the reimbursement rates are. Our hospitals and other health providers spend too much time cutting through red tape put in place by MCO’s that are more concerned with profits than coordinating care. Also, the state must reconsider it’s model of subsidizing safety net hospitals that have experience plummeting patient counts. The Affordable Care Act gave Medicaid patients more flexibility in choosing where they go for care, but our reimbursement model has not fully adopted to this change. Funding must follow the patient.
Underfunding at the Department of Corrections has led to troubling findings by the auditor general that many inmates don’t receive services or opportunities for work while incarcerated. Is this a legitimate concern? What should the Legislature do?
Hurley: Educating our inmates and teaching them a skill while incarcerated is beneficial to our overall society. When released if the inmate can find a job and make a living wage he/she will probably be less likely to return to a life of crime. The inmates can also work in the jail to cut costs. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart changed the policy of laundry services and brought it in-house, saving taxpayers money. The state should consider similar policies.
Should the state restore the practice of parole for people sentenced to long terms? Why or why not?
Hurley: Because the death penalty has been eliminated in Illinois, no inmate convicted of a capital offense, (like killing a police officer, for instance,) should be eligible for parole. If an inmate is charged of a less serious offense and has worked to rehabilitate himself in prison and has shown contrition about the crime he committed, then parole could be carefully considered.
Ahead of the historic 2018 elections, the Sun-Times is teaming up weekly with the Better Government Association, in print and online, to fact-check the truthfulness of the candidates. You can find all of the PolitiFact Illinois stories we’ve reported together here.